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Tim Bowler

Help with French medal - croix de guerre

26 posts in this topic

Hi there

I wonder if any of the Pals could point me in the right direction when it comes to finding French medal citations. We have a croix de guerre with bronze palm, which was awarded to my wife's uncle. I know he got it for service in French Indo-China (so I apologise that this inquiry is a a little out of the forum's time frame) it's a Croix de Geure for overseas theatres of operation.

I think the bronze palm means it would have been an Army level citation, but beyond that I don't know much. Family history has it - the award was for leading a counter-attack - but it would be nice to know where to go in the French archives to find out.

My French is passable, so I am happy reading documents in French.

Does anybody have any suggestions?

Thank you in advance for any help you can give me

best wishes

Tim Bowler B)

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Tim,

The bronze palm does indeed denote an Army level citation. The archives relating to awards/decorations are at the Caserne Bernadotte in Pau, which you should be able to find via the central website for the Service Historique de la Défense: http://www.servicehistorique.sga.defense.gouv.fr/

I have not tried them recently, but e-mail enquiries I sent to them a couple of years ago, in French, went unanswered.

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Gentlemen,

the Croix de Guerre recipient was awarded a bronze palm leaf for Army citations, a gold star for Corps citations, a silver star for Division citations or a bronze star for Brigade and Regimental citations.

NOTA: 5 Bronze palm leaves = 1 silver Palm leaf.

Tim, I'm French...and bilingual. If you need any help for your request, send me a PM or email, I'll be glad to help you!

All the best.

Phil

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Phil,

As I said in my post, I have not had any success with recent enquiries to the archives of the Service Historique de la Défense at Pau, whereas they used to be very helpful before the merger of the separate Services historiques to form the SHD. Is there a new procedure for directing enquiries? Perhaps enquiries should now be sent to the Château de Vincennes?

Mick

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Tim

What other medals does he have?

Mick

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EDIT: yes it is the SHAT at Vincennes but for Officers ONLY (SHAT, Vieux Fort, 94300 Vincennes)!! And You'll need a minimum of info:

1st name, last name, DOB and place of birth.

For NCOs and soldiers: you must write to the local Archives of the place where the person was born, as it's there that the info ("le registre matricule des états de service (série R) ") for non officers born between 1847 & 1906 are recorded. If born after 1906, then one must contact BCAAM, Caserne Bernadotte, 64023 Pau Cedex.

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Phil,

I understood that the Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre/de la Marine/de l'Armée de l'Air had been amalgamated to form the Service Historique de la Défense, still based at Vincennes. French records seem very difficult to access and I'm sure we would all be very grateful if you could help us understand how the system works.

Mick

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If born after 1906, then one must contact BCAAM, Caserne Bernadotte, 64023 Pau Cedex.

As I mentioned in post #2. Their e-mail address, if I remember correctly, is bcaam-pau@sgn.defense.gouv.fr

Mick

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Mick,

- Service Historique de la Défense

yes it has been amalgamated and is based at Vincennes.

Their new website is here

And you have all the necessary contact info here

It is stipulated that the Personel doesn't answer to research enquiries and they specifiy that if you want to make researches linked to the Army, you must contact:

Service Historique de la Défense

Département de l'Armée de Terre

BP 166

00468 Armées

Tél : 01 41 93 20 95 (archives)

01 41 93 20 72 (library)

Fax : 01 41 93 20 03

Don't forget to provide first & last names, DOB and POB. I've gone thru the endless administrative dedalus tonight and it seems as "easy" (ironic) as usual with French Administration.

- The BCAAM (Bureau Central d'Archives Administratives Militaires):

The email you give has changed too: bcaam-pau@dsn.sga.defense.gouv.fr

The BCAAM must be contacted if YOU are an ORs born between 1917 & 1954, which has no sense if we look for someone who took part in WWI. BTW, only the concerned person or their heirs (if the person is deceased) can contact them but the BCAAM will NOT deliver the appropriate "feuillet matricule" (SERIE R). After 90 years, the files are sent to the local Archives were the person was living when he was 18/20 yrs old.

Air Force Officers and ORS are to contact: BARAA BA 102 21998 DIJON ARMEES

Navy ORs must contact: CTIRH BP 140 83800 TOULON ARMEES

I can't tell you more, I hope it really helps you, these are the last updated news and contact addresses!

All the best.

Phil

PS: for French regiments, another useful link: Data base for WWI French Army Infantry of the Line Regiments

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Wow

I always knew that members of this Forum could answer almost anything, now I am sure of it.

Mick and Phil, thank you very much for your help.

I do have my wife's uncles DOB and POB, and date of death. I have his unit (he was a volunteer - a sergeant attached to the French supported National Vietnamese Army).

Besides the Croix de Guerre, he was also awarded the Medaille Militaire.

I know the French government was able to say with a straight face, that the regular French army would not be used in Vietnam. Because they relied on volunteers who were then sent to the various Colonial formations - or the Foreign Legion. I wonder whether that would mean a different department would hold the archives?

Anyway, I shall prepare to see where we get with the French archives, now I know where to start looking.

Thank you very much once again for your help

best

Tim ;)

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Might I ask a related question:

Would I use the same process to ascertain whether an AEF pilot received the croix de guerre? or would those records be elsewhere?

I have an official memo announcing his recommendation for the croix de guerre but the family are unsure as to whether he actually received it.

Thanks in advance

Chris

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Very many thanks to Phil for his detailed explanation of the reorganised French military historical/archival system, which sounds even more Byzantine than it was before. The conditions re access he describes certainly apply to personnel who served in the French forces, but I wonder what the situation is now with regard to records of awards (principally CdGs and MMs) to foreign service personnel? I was told some years ago by SHAT that the records of such awards during the Great War are very incomplete, but that such records as have survived are held by the BCAAM at Pau.

It would be interesting to discover what form those records take and how big the body of data is. If they are in an accessible form and of manageable proportions, there might be some mileage in an institution of suitable standing (perhaps the British Commission for Military History) asking the French authorities whether they would consider making a copy available to an archive repository outside France – thus simplifying access for foreign researchers and relieving the Service Historique de la Défense of the onerous task of not responding to foreign enquiries.

The French official military historical system used to depend on the cheap labour of history students assigned to serve their period of national military service with the various Services Historiques. That came to an end with the abolition of national service in France a few years ago – but there must be some 'graduates' of that system out there somewhere in the French WW1 enthusiast community. Perhaps we need to ask an English-speaker from one of the French WW1 forums to tell us how they obtain information.

Mick

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You're welcome!!

The absence of replies is a common thing in France, especially towards the non-French. It is a shame and unfortunately we face that every day. I could tell you anecdotes about my time in the Air Force, your jaws would fall! Our National service ended in 2001 and now the only people in charge of that are both Military and civilians. The cut in the Defense budget is such that there has been no more people to help do that, though they also do some tremendous work.

Our archives concerning French soldiers dead during WWI, Algeria and Indochina conflicts are now online here

(top menu, click on "Recherche". By entering the soldier's name, you'll have a scan of his file).

Concerning the Croix de Guerre, I strongly advise you to contact the Association:

Association nationale des Croix de Guerre et de la Valeur Militaire

Hôtel national des Invalides

129, rue de Grenelle

75700 PARIS cedex 07

(Phone)+33 1 44 42 38 47

croixdeguerre-vm.siegenational@club-internet.fr

About your questions foreign soldiers in the French Army, I don't know but here again, I would advise you to contact our Ministery of Defence, Anciens Combattans (Veterans) department:

Ministère de la Défense

Secrétariat d'Etat aux Anciens Combattants

37 rue Bellechasse

75007 PARIS

(Phone) +33144421000

Hope it helps!

All the best, Phil

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May I add my thanks too. Thanks Phil. VERY useful set of information. Much appreciated.

Chris

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... a bronze palm leaf for Army citations, a gold star for Corps citations, a silver star for Division citations or a bronze star for Brigade and Regimental citations. ...

What does that actually mean, please? "Army citations", "Corps citations", "Division citations" etc?

My grandfather received the CdG with gold star; I have the text of the citation. But what do those distinctions indicate?

Angela

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During World War I, the Croix de Guerre was awarded for bravery to military personnel and recipients of the Légion d'Honneur and Médaille Militaire.

This decoration was established by the French Republic in 1915 and is awarded to soldiers, airmen or sailors or all ranks, officers included, and also to officers and men of Allied forces, mentioned in French Despatches, for an individual feat of arms mentioned in a Despatch from the general officer commanding an Army, Army Corps, Division, Brigade or the C.O. of a regiment or the corresponding unit of Naval forces.

The different classes of despatches for which a recipient was awarded the cross may be recognized by the following emblems on the ribbon:

Army Despatch - small bronze laurel branch (Palme en bronze);

Army Corps Despatch - silver gilt star; Divisional Despatch - silver star;

Brigade, Regimental or similar Unit Despatch - bronze star. Every mention is represented by its emblem, thus a man can wear the cross with a silver star and a bronze palm. For every five bronze palms he gets instead a silver palm. The award of the Légion d'Honneur carries with it a Croix de Guerre avec Palme.

There is no gold star, do you have a reference to it? It could be that the bronze star is polished.

Mick

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I'm intrigued if there is a reference to a gold star in the citation, I've not seen a british citation, any chance of a transcript?

Mick

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Angela, would you have any picture of the award? There is NO gold star BUT a Vermeil one for the citation à l'ordre du Corps d'Armée. Wouldn't it be that??

Your question is good and technically interesting. Obviously, it seems that the citations awarded by the commanding officers or higher ranks to NCOs and below are determined by the rank and level of the authority who has decided to give the award: this will determine if the recipient gets the Corps, division, brigade or regiment citation. The final approval is given by the Commanding Brigadier general (when on the battlefield) or Minister of War (for personel belonging to his Department).

Initially, before the Croix was awarded, officers gave oral "citations à l'ordre du jour", which means an officer would recognize the bravery of a soldier for an action he did one day. Not only a soldier could be awarded the Croix de Guerre (and later other medals), but a regiment could too and...in 1917 Dunkerque was the very first town to be awarded the croix. It was awarded another during WWII after the events we know. The total number of recipients of the Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 : 2 065 000

A bill was passed to introduce a "Special Croix de Guerre" which would only award soldiers fighting on the frontline/battlefield, as the French authorities concsidered that too many Croix de Guerre had been awarded. This Bill was never put into pratice.

Here are the scans of the paper given to my grandfather when was awarded the Croix de Guerre (twice) during WWII: once with "Army Citation" (silver palm) and once with "division citation" (silver star). The first one for escaping a POW camp in Germany in January 1945, the second one for his beahaviour and acts during the Brittany Battle in June 1944.

I enclosed a translation of the second page which states why he was awarded the Croix de Guerre with "Army Citation" (He was a senior NCO in the French SAS, Motor Squadron):

NCO parachutist with the highest courage and devotion. Already cited for his brilliant conduct during the airborne operations in Brittany, [That's why he was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Silver star peviously] and after showing daring and calm during the Sud Loire combats, proved on January 2nd at Wavreilles (Belgium) his undertaking spirit and courage during a dangerous Recce mission.

Entering foolhardly in a heavily defended village hold by a German motorized company, he was taken prisonner after being wounded. The enemy, surpirzed by his audace and courage, suddenly decided to withdraw after they interrogated him. Though wounded, has tried several times to escape.

croixdeguerrehg8.th.jpg citationgc9.th.jpg

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Hi Mick and Phil,

Thank you so much for the comprehensive replies.

Sorry, I did not mean that the citation itself mentioned the gold star. And the actual CdG was sold 30 years ago, along with my grandfather's MC and Bar, so I cannot tell you what it looks like.

But I have seen this "gold star" mentioned once or twice, most recently last week when a forum member kindly looked up my grandfather in a 1920 publication "The Inns of Court O.T.C. during the Great War" and sent me the following quote:

"BAGSHAW, William Browne, number 2218, served in K and A Companies, joined 30/11/14. Commissioned into the Manchester Regiment on 3/3/15, wounded once, attained the rank of Brigade Major, awarded the Military Cross and Bar, French Croix de Guerre with gold star and was mentioned in Despatches."

Maybe this "gold" star is in reality a silver gilt one?

His award is listed - without citation - in the London Gazette of 26 Nov 1918.

The citation, which I copied down many years ago at my late grandfather's house, reads:

"8o Captain WB Bagshaw MC, Manchester Regt & Staff.

A montré, pendant des opérations entre le 27 mai et le 4 juin 1918, beaucoup d’initiative et de dévouement. Le 28 mai a réussi, malgré de violents feux de mitrailleuses, à regrouper des hommes ayant perdu leurs unités. Par l’ascendant qu’il avait pris sur ces hommes, grâce à son calme, a pu opposer une sérieuse résistance à l’ennemi et lui faire subir de lourdes pertes.

Au GG, le 13 août 1918,

Le Général commandant le 5e corps d’Armée."

He was with the 74th Infantry Brigade at the time, though I don't know where they were fighting. He had been in the 2/9th Manchesters, but I think they had been absorbed into the 1/9th in February 1918.

Angela

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A montré, pendant des opérations entre le 27 mai et le 4 juin 1918, beaucoup d'initiative et de dévouement. Le 28 mai a réussi, malgré de violents feux de mitrailleuses, à regrouper des hommes ayant perdu leurs unités. Par l'ascendant qu'il avait pris sur ces hommes, grâce à son calme, a pu opposer une sérieuse résistance à l'ennemi et lui faire subir de lourdes pertes.

Au GG, le 13 août 1918,

Le Général commandant le 5e corps d'Armée."

Angela

Given that it is Le Général commandant le 5e corps d'Armée who validated the attribution of the medal, I would think that he got the Corps citation, which would mean a "Vermeil star". In pratice, was this Vermeil star called Gold or looked Gold??

Here is one Croix de guerre with 4 citations:

1 bronze palm

1 vermeil star

1 silver star

1 bronze star

280px-Photo_Croix_de_guerre_recto.jpg

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Yes its the silver gilt one then, that being said, the stars are sometimes difficult to tell apart with tarnishing...i have bought a couple with bronze stars that turned out to be silver.

Mick

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Thanks so much for the clarification, guys!

Angela

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Can any one help me find out why Pte James Anderson 23331 13th Battalion Royal Scots (Broomhouse) received the Croix de Guerre. It has the date 10 November 1918. We have a copy of the certificate but do not know why he received it. My husband would love to know as James Anderson is his father

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Can anyone help me find out why Pte. James Anderson 23331 13th Battalion Royal Scots (Broomhouse) received the Croix de Guerre. It has the date 10 November 1918 on it. We have the certificate but do not know why he received it. My husband would love to know as James Anderson is his father. Any help would be very much appreciated

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Hi

Here is the London Gazette for his award

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/31024/supplements/13728

It will be quite difficult to get a recommendation or citation for a foreign award as these were not printed in the London Gazette.

Your best bet is the Unit War Diary or his local newspaper, as these sometimes have reasons for the award.

Peter

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